2013-14 Section 3AAAA Preview

This is the 20th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  The previews of class AAAA continue with a look at Section 3.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: Apple Valley (2013 State Champion)

Predicted Seeding
  1. Apple Valley
  2. East Ridge
  3. Cretin-Derham Hall
  4. Eagan
  5. Rosemount
  6. Eastview
  7. Henry Sibley
  8. Park
Discussion in this section begins and ends with Tyus Jones and Apple Valley.  Dustin Fronk needs to be replaced but Apple Valley is still loaded with talent throughout their program.  The rest of the section won't get the respect it deserves but it is very solid.  East Ridge has everyone back and could be a top 5 team in the state.  They are one of the few teams in the state who can say they can somewhat matchup with Apple Valley.  Cretin-Derham Hall is very talented but young with their junior class.  They need to establish that they can win big games after a disappointing year last season.  Eagan could easily take that 3 seed and Rosemount has a ton coming back.  New coach Paul Goetz at Eastview doesn't have the parts to work with that the others do but you can bet his team will be a tough out in March.  Henry Sibley and Park bring up the rear.

Sleeper: Rosemount.   Experienced with shooters and a quality leader in point guard Garrett Goetz.

Section Winner: Apple Valley.  Still way too talented and with the best player in the section playing his final year, no way I'm picking against the Eagles

2013-14 Section 2AAAA Preview

This is the 19th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, we continue our 2 week series of looking at all 8 sections in class AAAA with a look at section 2AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: Eden Prairie

Predicted Seeding

  1. Shakopee
  2. Chaska
  3. Prior Lake
  4. Chanhassen
  5. Lakeville South
  6. Bloomington Kennedy
  7. Bloomington Jefferson
  8. Burnsville
With Eden Prairie moving to loaded section 6, there will be a new champion this season.  Shakopee returns everybody and has to be the favorite.  Chaska is very experienced and tough.  Prior Lake has the top player in the section in Jon Sobaski.  Chanhassen is a year away with their junior class but they're still very dangerous.  Lakeville South won't be a push over after being battle tested in the South Suburban.  Expect the race for 3 through 5 to be very competitive.  Kennedy's athletes and Jefferson's style will make them no fun to play but the talent level isn't there.  Burnsville's rebuilding continues.

Sleeper: Chanhassen.   The junior class is very talented and looking to make a run not just next season but this season as well.  Its a gritty group that won't be an easy out.

Section Winner: Shakopee.  Too big, experienced, physical and disciplined for the rest of the section.

2013-14 Section 1AAAA Preview

This is the 18th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, we begin a 2 week series of looking at all 8 sections in class AAAA.  It starts with section 1AAAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: Lakeville North

Predicted Seeding
  1. Lakeville North
  2. Rochester John Marshall
  3. Farmington
  4. Owatonna 
  5. Rochester Century
  6. Hastings
  7. Rochester Mayo
  8. Northfield
Lakeville North being a favorite this season was expected but they were a year ahead of schedule in winning the section last season.  JP Macura gives the Panthers the top goto option in the section but they are all around solid.  Don't sleep on John Marshall.  Kirk Thompson did wonders there in year 1 and has the Rockets blazing with almost everyone back.  Ngor Barnaba in the middle can be an intimidating factor defensively.   The Hurt brothers (Michael and Matthew) are names you'll hear for the next few years as top kids in their classes.  Owatonna and Farmington should be a good battle for the 3 seed and could be decided head to head in the season opener at Farmington on Nov 22nd.  A common game vs Shakopee factors in that discussion too.  Century sticks in the middle.  Hastings, Northfield and Mayo are all coming off rough seasons.  But there's hope for all 3.  Hastings has a junior class to build around.  Luke Harris (Northfield) and Dan Jech (Mayo) are big men that their programs can build around.

Sleeper: Owatonna.  They're solid, they defend and are well coached.

Section Winner: Lakeville North.  Too much JP Macura for this section.

2013-14 Section 6AAA Preview

This is the 17th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, from the east side to the west side for a look at section 6AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: Blake

Predicted Seeding
  1. Holy Family
  2. Washburn 
  3. Blake 
  4. Waconia  
  5. Richfield
  6. Holy Angels  
  7. Benilde-St. Margaret's
  8. Mound-Westonka
Waconia is back in the section after losing in the 2AAA title game last season.  This section is a major toss up.  Holy Family's huge front line of Justin Dahl, Joe Hanel and Joe Conroy returns.  That includes Brent Hentges as a double figure as a scorer too.  Washburn loses Nick Anderson but has plenty of talent returning as my pick to win the Minneapolis City.  Blake and Waconia have above .500 teams coming back and can play with most in AAA.  The other Nicollet Ave corridor teams have major rework to do.  Benilde St. Margaret's has a lot back after major struggles last year.  Tyler Biwan starts a rebuilding effort at Mound-Westonka

Sleeper: Waconia.  They lost a ton but forward Ryan Boll is vastly underrated as a jack of all trades.  Avery Talton gives them an athlete and Tommy Gove is experienced in the back court.  Pat Hayes is as good as any in the section on the bench.

Section Winner: Holy Family.  Too big and talented.  Matt Thuli returns to the bench as the coach who led them to their 1st state appearance.

2013-14 Section 4AAA Preview

This is the 16th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, we look at section 4AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: St. Paul Johnson

Predicted Seeding
  1. St. Paul Johnson
  2. Hill-Murray
  3. St. Paul Central
  4. St. Thomas Academy
  5. St. Paul Highland Park
  6. Simley
  7. St. Paul Harding
  8. South St. Paul
Johnson has won this section 5 consecutive years. Their tradition here is hard to ignore and they have a goto guy in Jalen Mobley.  Hill-Murray has explosive scorer Marshawn Wilson which always makes them scary plus they have shooters.  Central will be athletic and talented.  St. Thomas Academy is solid.  Highland Park's lack of size hurts but they'll play hard.  Simley is much improved and could fight for a home game.   Harding and South St. Paul will bring up the last 2 spots.

Sleeper: St. Thomas Academy.  They have a quality group of juniors and as they gel they'll get better as the season goes on.

Section Winner: St. Paul Johnson. 

2013-14 Section 3AAA Preview

This is the 15th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, we begin to look at the large school sections in the metro.  We'll begin with section 3AAA.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Defending Champion: De La Salle (2 time defending state champion)

Predicted Seeding
  1. De La Salle
  2. Totino-Grace 
  3. Spring Lake Park
  4. Minneapolis Patrick Henry 
  5. Columbia Heights 
  6. Fridley 
  7. St. Anthony
  8. St. Paul Como Park
Can't imagine why I'd put De La Salle as the top pick here.  With my picks, I still like Totino-Grace at 2.  I'm going to go with instinct but against my conference picks and move Columbia Heights down.  Lots could happen in the middle with Fridley, Henry, Columbia Heights and Spring Lake Park.  Spring Lake Park gets my nod for consistency.  Fridley at Henry on Jan 20th could loom very large for seeding purposes.  St. Anthony and Como Park are the bottom 2.

Sleeper: Fridley.   Lots of guys back and Stevie Hjelmberg gives them a goto guy.

Section Winner: De La Salle.  Is there anything else to say here?

2013-14 Section 4AA/5AA Previews

This is the 14th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  We'll review the metro area AA teams in this preview with a look at section 4AA and the updated south half of section 5AA. For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4AA
Defending Champion: Minnehaha (State Champion)

Predicted Seeding

  1. Minnehaha 
  2. St. Paul Academy   
  3. Concordia
  4. New Life Academy
  5. St. Croix Lutheran 
  6. St. Croix Prep
  7. Trinity
  8. St. Agnes
  9. Minneapolis Roosevelt
  10. St. Paul Humboldt
  11. Mounds Park Academy
  12. Great River 
  13. FAIR
  14. St. Paul Washington
  15. Hmong Academy
  16. St. Paul Prep
As as been recent history, this section doesn't exactly say strength.  Minnehaha loses almost everybody and I still have to pick them as the favorite.  I picked St. Paul Academy last year and that didn't work so well, so I can't go with them here.  A piece here or there for the next few teams and then a bunch of very bad teams in the bottom half.

Sleeper: New Life Academy.  I can use the same text that I wrote here last year or simply pick them by default.  That's the easier option.

Section Winner: Minnehaha.   Too many athletes and a hunger to get back to the big game.

Section 5AA South Sub-Section
  1. Breck
  2. Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted
  3. Rockford
  4. Watertown-Mayer 
  5. Providence Academy
  6. International School
  7. Minneapolis Edison
  8. Brooklyn Center
The west metro teams in AA move to the south half of section 5AA and will have the section final at Halenbeck Hall.  Breck with most of their guys back has to be the pick here.  Rockford has their top 3 kids returning and will represent Minnesota in the Border Battle in January.  HLWW returns plenty from their 20 win season.  Watertown-Mayer has a quality forward returning in Luke Sandquist.  Providence Academy will battle them for a home court game in the 1st round.   The bottom 3 make for blowout games in round 1.

Sleeper: Providence Academy.  With 2 solid bigs and a scorer on the wing coming back, the Lions could surprise.  They have a new coach who's been there.

Sub-Section Winner: Breck.   Too much firepower.  Solid enough to win here and then a high quality section final game against the likes of Braham or Annandale.  There's just something that makes it hard to wrap my head around them going to St. Cloud to play a section final when they're a hop skip and jump from Macalester.

2013-14 Section 4A Preview

This is the 13th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In the first set of previews, we took a look at 11 metro area conferences and some independents.  In this second set of previews, its time for predictions in 13 metro area sections.  We'll begin with a look at Section 4A.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Section 4A
Defending Champion: Maranatha (2013 state runner up)

Predicted Seeding
  1. Maranatha
  2. Minneapolis North
  3. Southwest Christian
I see it a down year in section 4A.  The top 3 teams from last year (MCA, West Lutheran and Heritage) lost a ton, the 4th lost a ton too and moved up to AA (St. Croix Prep) and Metro Tech at 5th has folded.  At 6, North's new infusion of talent and Larry McKenzie at the helm will propel them in to the section title discussion.  The bigger school schedule will prepare them too.  For 7 and 8 last year, CHOF is still young and MTS does have everybody back but neither team was very good last year.  Southwest Christian has plenty coming back and can be scary enough to play with anybody in the section.  They move in from section 2 as a team that can compete.  They played all the top teams in the section tough last year.

Sleeper:  Prairie Seeds Academy.  The Lycans may revert to human form and be rebuilding or revert to their werewolf form and jump up and bite people.  With the old guard back in place, I have them on the watch list.

Section Winner: Maranatha.  The Mustangs have to be the pick, despite all of their losses, until otherwise beaten.  North's youth and 1st year in the McKenzie system keeps them out of the top pick. 

2013-14 Rest of the Metro Preview

This is the 12th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, I conclude my look at the teams around the metro with a look at the local independents and any other teams in The Kingdom that I haven't previewed yet and want to mention.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.   But we're only halfway done.  We'll take a break for MEA until next week and then start in with 13 section previews over the last 3 weeks leading up to the start of practice.

CHOF Lions (2012-13 season 5-14)
Guard Kendall Strandlund needs to be replaced.  But 2 other double figure scorers are back at the guard spots.  That includes Nate Johnston and sophomore shooter Kit Piepkorn who were the top scorers last season.   Sophomores Brauc Eckman, Tim Rohlf and Anders Strandlund will also be major contributors as the Lions build toward 2015-2016

Minnesota Transitions Wolves (2012-13 season 14-12)
Coach John Sherman went young last year and has everybody back.  The Wolves won't be big but they'll have some firepower.  Senior Willie Parrish put up almost 24 a night.  Soph Lewis McCaleb averaged over 11 points a game.

Prairie Seeds Academy Lycans (2011-12 season 23-3, no team in 2012-13)
Last year's program was shut down because of "academics".  I think its safe to say that's not quite the entire story considering all of the issues with athletics at PSA recently.  That's not only soccer.  Tim Williams returns to run the program.  Considering the intense scrutiny this program should/will be under from the MSHSL, I find it extremely strange that Williams returns to the bench after the numerous issues during his previous tenure at PSA.  That included playing games out of the 5 state area and 2 games against MSHSL opponents that were before the season was allowed to start in November of 2010.  I attended the 1st and Jarvis Johnson had his heart attack in the other on the following night.  Also note that not just anyone, but MN Transitions of all people, cancelled a game with PSA that year because of concerns with the program.  It will be interesting to watch what happens with this program.

St. Croix Prep Lions (2012-13 season 23-6)
The Lions built the program up and it led to a 23 win season and conference title.  Now a new era begins.  The senior laden lineup is gone, new coach Matt McCollister takes over and the Lions move up to class AA.  They will also leave the Metro Charter Conference and play an independent schedule.  Don't be shocked if the changes in the Tri-Metro ultimately see them join the eastern half schools like Concordia and St. Croix Lutheran in the near future.  Junior point guard Michael Gutierrez and wing Weston Berg return to the lineup.   Quinn Fisher looks to provide guard depth and Wade Krueger provides size. 

2013-14 Tri-Metro Preview

This is the 11th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  To begin week 3, a look at the Tri-Metro Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Blake Bears (2012-13 season 22-8, 9-1 Conference, 2nd)
Blake loses their inside presence Blaine Crawford and his team leading 16+ points per night.  5 year wing Kebu Johnson also departs.  Forward JR Bascom and point guard John Veil remain and give the Bears almost 30 per night.  Both are D3 committed and steals for their programs (Bascom to a school in Connecticut, Veil to St. Thomas).  Guards John Augustine and John Curran return to the rotation.  The other post Alex Smith also graduates leaving the Bears to search for size.

Breck Mustangs (2012-13 season 19-11, 6-4 Conference, 4th)
Wayzata assistant Mike Anderson takes over for the departed Matt McCollister.  Another quality private school coach run out of town.  Double figure scorer Tilyn Hollis departs along with forward Michael Marzec.  The backcourt is still full of talent.  Will Culliton averaged 18+ as a shooter on 1 wing.  Mo Lawal averaged 15 a night on the other wing and can score in bunches.  Kevin Linehan returns to run the point.  Graydon Kulick gives them a body inside.  Kwaku Bodom gives them depth on the wing.  Most of that crew is juniors so plenty to build around.

Brooklyn Center Centaurs (2012-13 season 16-12, 2-8 Conference, Tied 10th)
Brooklyn Center will have to replace most of their roster.  The top 3 scorers depart.  Sammie Watkins is a good athlete on the wing.  He's the top returning player.  Tyler Wilebski also returns to the starting lineup. 

Concordia Academy Beacons (2012-13 season 16-13, 5-5 Conference, 5th)
The top 3 scorers depart.  That includes the long Jared Schneidermann.  The lineup was balanced and returns junior point guard Roger Moore, Jr and his 10 points per game.  Austin Moldenhauer and Will Preble also return to the rotation.

De La Salle Islanders (2012-13 season 29-1, 10-0 Conference, 1st, AAA State Champion)
The two time defending state AAA champion Islanders are still loaded and the prohibitive favorite to win it all again.  Reid Travis is one of the top power forwards in the country.  Jarvis Johnson is a top 100 level talent at the point.  Sacar Anim is a lockdown defender and one of the top juniors in the state.  James Lawson returns up front as well.  Geno Crandall is a D1 talent who came off the bench last year because the Islanders were so deep.   Luke Scott's sharpshooting will be missed.  If the Islanders find consistent shooting to go with Travis inside they can play with just about anybody in the country.  They'll get a chance to find that out with a bunch of high-profile games against non-Minnesota teams.

Minnehaha Academy Redhawks (2012-13 season 26-6, 8-2 Conference, 3rd, AA State Champion)
In a feat that will be hard to duplicate, last year I made what may be my worst prediction ever picking the Redhawks 8th in conference and 9th in section.  The Redhawks lose their top 5 scorers and a ton of athleticsm from their AA state championship squad.  But the cupboard isn't bare.  Jahleel Davis returns to a forward spot along with Dane Birkeland.   Trenton McCarthy and Thomas Ostrom also should see time.  They bring in a couple of talented freshmen as well.

Mounds Park Academy Panthers (2012-13 season 4-16 Independent)
The Panthers once again will play an independent schedule this season and not be in conference play.  They will still participate in the end of season tourney.  The top 2 scorers are gone.  Guard Mark Miller is the top returning scorer.  Sophomore Cole Montour will also provide offense.

Providence Academy Lions (2012-13 season 12-12, 4-6 Conference, 6th)
Providence Academy brings in LaMar Detert to take over the program.  He returns to the bench after taking some time away.  He was previously the girls head coach at Rogers.  The guard duo of Joe Heck and Jackson Canfield were long time starters and double figures scorers but have now graduated.  There is size and interior scoring with seniors Ben Ratliff and Sean Healy both returning.  Soph wing Matt Richelsen returns after a full varsity season.   

St. Agnes Aggies (2012-13 season 10-17, 3-7 Conference, Tied 7th)
Double figure scorer Nick Bennett needs to be replaced.  Leading scorer Nick Turch returns at a wing slot after averaging 19 points a game.  Jack Fossand and Dante Davison give them some returning size.

St. Anthony Huskies (2012-13 season 12-16, 3-7 Conference, Tied 7th)
Longtime coach Dave Bratland stepped down in the offseason.  Chris Hergenrader takes over the reins of the program.  3 of the top 4 scorers depart.  That includes 19 points per game from point guard Nick Kampa.  Noah Bluth is the top returnee after averaging double digits last year.

St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders (2012-13 season 10-18, 2-8 Conference, Tied 10th)
A promising season took a quick downturn last season as the Crusaders finished 4-14 after the holidays.  All everything forward Cody Sticha and Jackson Goplen are 2 major pieces to replace though Goplen missed most of last season.  Soph Aage Rovney and Aaron Zoellner return to the lineup.  Josh Arndt and soph forward Trenton Krueger should also see time.  The sophomore class has 4 talented members that they'll build around for the future.

St. Paul Academy Spartans (2012-13 season 9-19, 3-7 Conference, Tied 7th)
The Spartans lost 11 of 13 to end last season.  Leading scorer Josh Gray getting hurt was a big part of that.  Him and backcourt mate Spencer Egly have graduated.  They have a pair of quality sophomores to build around.  Dalante Peyton returns for his 3rd year on varsity and averaged double digits.  Forward Kent Hanson joins him as a potent offensive force.  His return off sets losing 2 big bodies inside.  Senior Harrison Egly is the top returning scorer at 11+ per game. 

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. DeLaSalle
  2. Breck
  3. Blake  
  4. Minnehaha  
  5. St. Paul Academy  
  6. Providence Academy   
  7. Concordia Academy 
  8. St. Croix Lutheran   
  9. St. Anthony
  10. St. Agnes  
  11. Brooklyn Center
Conference MVP: Reid Travis - De La Salle 

Conference Overview:
The discussion begins and ends with De La Salle who's a nationally ranked level team.  Many of the other teams are a year or 2 away so I see this year as a relatively down year.  See Minnehaha, Breck, St. Paul Academy, St. Croix Lutheran.  I like what Breck has coming back to pick them 2nd but arch rival Blake will give them a serious run.  Minnehaha will need some experience but they'll have athletes which is dangerous in this league.  St. Paul Academy is in that middle mix with their sophomore duo.  Providence and Concordia and St. Croix Lutheran all have a single piece or 2 back but need help.  St. Anthony and St. Agnes hope to jump up and steal the final playoff spot.  Brooklyn Center will struggle.

Blake, Breck, SPA, MPA, Minnehaha and Providence are leaving after the season to form their own league.  Thanks to restructuring the league will add Holy Angels, Fridley and Columbia Heights after this season.  Their leagues are folding.  Wouldn't shock me if Brooklyn Center tried to move as well as the geography makes sense (old Metro Alliance) but I can't see them competing with the remaining group of AAA schools.  The schools that left are basically AA schools and that would be a better fit.

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Jack Moe - Blake 
  • Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman - Breck
  • Samm Jones - De La Salle
  • Joevon Walker, Simeon Davis - Minnehaha Academy
  • Cole Montour - Mounds Park Academy
  • Dominic Miller, Matt Richelsen - Providence Academy
  • Aage Rovney, Trenton Krueger - St. Croix Lutheran
  • Dalante Peyton, Kent Hanson - St. Paul Academy
Conference Games to Watch
  • Blake at De La Salle - Dec 3rd
  • De La Salle at Breck - Jan 16th
  • Breck at Blake - Feb 4th
  • Tri-Metro Championship - Feb 22nd
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Breck vs Perham - Nov 30th (Anoka Ramsey Classic)
  • De La Salle vs Apple Valley- Dec 7th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Breck vs Minnetonka - Dec 7th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Annandale at Breck - Dec 10th
  • Blake at Holy Family - Dec 12th
  • De La Salle vs Osseo - Dec 14th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • De La Salle vs View Park (CA) - Dec 21st (Winter Classic Snow Jam, Waukesha, WI)
  • De La Salle vs Findlay Prep (NV) - Dec 28th (Mike Miller Classic, Mitchell, SD)
  • De La Salle vs Chicago St. Rita (IL) - Jan 4th (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • Blake at Eden Prairie - Jan 7th
  • De La Salle at Eden Prairie - Jan 14th
  • De La Salle vs Iowa City West (IA) - Jan 18th (Midwest Players Classic, La Crosse, WI)
  • Breck at Hill-Murray - Jan 18th
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall - Feb 8th

2013-14 St. Paul City Preview

This is the 10th preview in my 2012-2013 season preview series.  To end week 2 of the series, a look at the St. Paul City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Central Minutemen (2012-13 season 19-10, 10-2 Conference, 3rd)
Central had the most talented team in the league last season and that will be true this year as well.  That talent allowed them to break the 55 game conference win streak of Johnson.  3 All-Conference players from that team return.   Guard Felix Taylor Jr, high flying wing Rayeon Williams give the Minutemen a very talented backcourt.  Forward Markus Taylor-Knighten anchors the frontcourt.  Kalu Abosi is another one of the 6 players returning to the rotation.  Center Malik Durant-Haines will be missed inside.  The JV and Freshmen squads won the city last season.

Como Park Cougars (2012-13 season 6-20, 4-8 Conference, Tied 4th)
The Cougars lose 4 of their top 5 scorers.  Honorable mention performer Peter Schrader returns after averaging over 8 per game.  Ampa Garubanda and Bryon Shaw are guard options.

Harding Knights (2012-13 season 9-17, 4-8 Conference, Tied 4th)
The Knights have to replace one of the league's top scorers, Kenny Reed.  The 2 other double-figure scorers are gone as well  The trio combined for almost 50 points per night.  The team will be led by a group of juniors.  Guard Donovon Adesoro is the top returning scorer at just over 5 per game.  Malik Samuel, Raydell Greenhill and Ismael Kamara all return.  Size will be an issue.

Highland Park Scots (2012-13 season 17-11, 10-2 Conference, 2nd)
For the 2nd time in 3 years the Scots featured a lefty guard who led the league in scoring.  Dion Bradley's 28.3 PPG in league games was an all-time record for the conference.  That was much needed for a very small lineup.  That will be true again this year.  Isaiah Brower will lead the way.  Adrain Miller, Emanuel Murphy and Kwashon Collins-Westlund all return as well.

Humboldt Hawks (2012-13 season 13-15, 4-8 Conference, Tied 4th)
Leading scorer Leo Wade and 17 points night.  Also gone is Malique-Adams-Virnig and his double figures each night.  Darious Miller and Demond Dawson lead the way.  Junior Tyler Hayes also returns to the rotation.  Yet another team in the league desperate for size.

Johnson Governors (2012-13 season 22-9, 11-1 Conference, 1st)
Vern Simmons took his squad to another conference title and state appearance.  Dynamic junior Jalen Mobley returns as a goto scorer.  Peirre Conwell also averaged over 15 a game from his forward spot.  Both were all-conference performers.  Mitchell McDonald and Sedrick Clark return as well.  Expect the Govs to continue to play a ton of guys and find role players.  The intangibles of Quashingm Smith-Pugh will be missed.

Washington Eagles (2012-13 season 3-19, 0-12 Conference, 7th)
Center Kahnen Gbojueh is the only loss from last year but he was their top player.  Da'Vonte Adams leads the way.  Tau Hyatte and Robby Sanders also return to the rotation.  Soph Xavier Walden also comes back.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Johnson
  2. Central
  3. Highland Park
  4. Harding
  5. Como Park
  6. Humboldt
  7. Washington
Conference Overview:
Central is the most talented but talent hasn't translated into big game results there.   Until they prove they can win at Johnson, my pick is the Govs.  Highland Park is too well coached and has enough returning to be clearly above everybody else.  The bottom 4 will beat up on each other but otherwise struggle to find wins.

Conference MVP: Jalen Mobley - Johnson

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Sam Gubbrud, Jamal Galato - Central.
  • Xavier Walden - Washington
Conference Games to Watch
  • Central at Johnson - Jan 7th
  • Johnson at Central -Jan 31st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Central at Hill-Murray - Dec 3rd
  • Johnson at Roseville - Dec 6th
  • Totino-Grace at Central - Dec 10th
  • Johnson at Eden Prairie - Dec 14th
  • Twin Cities Game - Feb 22nd (St. Paul Champion)

2013-14 Suburban East Preview

This is the 9th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Suburban East Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they were generated, click here.

Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (2012-13 season 14-14, 9-9 Conference, 6th)
The Raiders had a very down year by their standards last year but lose only 1 senior from that extremely young squad.  The junior class leads the way with double digit scorers Sam Neumann and Joe Rosga.  Rosga is a great glue guy, Neumann has deep range.  Donnell Gresham will run the point after sitting out last year.  Top football recruit Jashon Cornell provides much needed toughness in the frontcourt.  Soph Brian Lankford-Johnson saw time last year.  This group is very talented but underachieved last year.  Keep an eye on how they mesh this season.

East Ridge Raptors (2012-13 season 18-9, 11-7 Conference, 5th)
East Ridge returns a loaded roster with fast rising Ryan Keenan in the middle, athletic wing Brian Ishola and shooter Jake Knupp.  All are experienced seniors.  Junior point guard Sid Tomes is a 3 year veteran as well.  Center Conrad Sexe gets replaced by Keenan and everybody else from the rotation returns.   Forward Ryan Mathis adds toughness.  Expect the Raptors to contend for top 5 status in the polls this season.

Forest Lake Rangers (2012-13 season 12-17, 6-12 Conference, 8th)
Coach Dan Cremisino will have to replace forward Noah Davis and 20 points per night.  The next 2 scorers are back.  That's guard Matt Degendorfer and lefty forward Connor Knutson.  Soph Noah Alm should step up into a bigger role as well.  Junior Brent Kinder should provide size.
Hastings Raiders (2012-13 season 2-24, 1-17 Conference, Tied 9th)
Hastings rebuilding behind their junior class (see also Park).  All 5 starters return and the top 5 scorers are back.  Juniors Sam Skoyen, Craig Nielsen and Joe Dittrich lead the way.  Seniors Zach Wiese and Drew Pottinger provide experience.  Junior forward Jay Sorg gives them size.

Mounds View Mustangs (2012-13 season 12-15, 7-11 Conference, 7th)
Mounds View returns their top 4 scorers and is full of seniors.  Lefty forward Tim Hanson, forward Ryan Kaczynski, Ben Spencer and James Van Eps all return.  They aren't that athletic but they play hard and smart.  A team that you better be prepared to show up against come play off time.

Park Wolfpack (2012-13 season 3-23, 1-17 Conference, Tied 9th)
Park did break a 68 game conference losing streak last season.  Besides a split with Hastings (who beat them by 17 in the other meeting), they were largely overmatched in league play.  The lineup was very young with a large complement of sophomores.  Hopefully that leads to improvement over these next 2 seasons.  No double figure scorers return.

Roseville Raiders (2012-13 season 22-6, 15-3 Conference, Tied 1st)
Roseville will have to replace 5 very productive seniors including their outstanding guard duo of Mack Johnson (Sioux Falls) and Logan Brown along with front court star Jordan Burich.  Those were the 3 double figure scorers.  Plenty of talent remains however.  Junior Kobe Critchley returns to run the point.  Fellow junior Kyler Briggity is now eligible after transferring in from CDH and provides a guard spark.  Jacques Perra and Lance Gardner are very good options on the wings.  Jake Geyen and Derek Magnuson give the Raiders big bodies.

Stillwater Ponies (2012-13 season 22-7, 13-5 Conference, 3rd)
The Ponies have to replace 7 members of their rotation.  The fastest riser of the summer, center Kyle McKinley will take over in the middle.  Junior forward Matt Anderson is the top returning scorer at 8.5 per game.  Juniors Jack Fahey and Connor Gamble should step into the guard spots.  The versatility of forward Andrew Duxbury (last year's leading scorer) will be missed.

White Bear Lake Bears (2012-13 season 17-10, 12-6 Conference, 4th)
White Bear did a nice job reloading last season after big losses.  This year, they'll have the same challenge.  They'll have to replace 4 starters and most of the rotation.  Guard Stevie Hjelmberg transferred to Fridley.  Tanner Hinck is the main returnee at 13 points a night.  Andy Lockwood and Connor Koll should step into guard spots.  Brett Pulczinski provides their 1 option for size.

Woodbury Royals (2012-13 season 25-5, 15-3 Conference, Tied 1st)
Woodbury needs to replace 4 of their top 5 scorers.  That includes explosive guards Renard Suggs and Diallo Powell who provided 32 points a night.   Sniper Matt Ambriz returns with 12+ per game as the only double figure scorer left.  Guard Nick Yan, wing Isaiah Coddon return along with middle men Ben Meyer and Ben Rizzardi.  I look for Coddon to have a breakout year.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. East Ridge
  2. Roseville
  3. Cretin-Derham Hall 
  4. Woodbury 
  5. Stillwater
  6. Mounds View
  7. Forest Lake
  8. White Bear Lake
  9. Hastings
  10. Park
Conference Overview:
East Ridge is deep and talented and has everyone back.  Roseville and CDH are very talented as well.  Flip a coin for those 2.  The next 3 all go together.  Mounds View did struggle the 2nd half of last season.  Stillwater has pieces but lacks experience.  Woodbury's tradition and returnees will keep them in the top half.  White Bear Lake and Forest Lake are a tossup.  Hastings and Park will be better but have lots of work to do to catch the rest.

Conference MVP: Brian Ishola- East Ridge

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Brian Lankford-Johnson, Chris Perry - Cretin-Derham Hall
  • Adam Bruggers - Stillwater
  • Seth Green - East Ridge (football star)
  • Noah Alm - Forest Lake
  • Henry Benson - Roseville
Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge at Roseville - Jan 7th
  • East Ridge at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 14th
  • Roseville at Cretin-Derham Hall - Jan 17th
  • Roseville at East Ridge - Feb 11th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge - Feb 18th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Roseville - Feb 21st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • East Ridge vs Shakopee - Nov 30th (at Anoka Ramsey CC Tournament)
  • St. Paul Johnson at Roseville - Dec 6th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Minnetonka - Dec 14th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • East Ridge vs Eagan - Dec 27th (at Bethel Tournament)
  • Roseville vs Apple Valley - Dec 27th (at St. Cloud Apollo, Granite City Classic)
  • Roseville vs Champlin Park - Dec 28th (at St. Cloud Apollo, Granite City Classic)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Bettendorf (IA) - Jan 4th (Timberwolves Shootout)
  • Cretin-Derham Hall vs Grand Rapids - Jan 20th (MLK Classic at UMD)
  • Washburn at Roseville - Feb 1st
  • De La Salle at Cretin-Derham Hall  - Feb 8th

2013-14 South Suburban Preview

This is the 8th preview in my 2013-14 Season Preview Series.  In this preview, a look at the South Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Apple Valley Eagles (2012-13 season 31-1, 18-0 Conference, 1st, State Champions)
The nation's top point guard Tyus Jones returns for his 5th season.  He led the Eagles to a state championship last year avenging their only loss to Park Center in the state title game.  Dennis Austin is a matchup nightmare who can play the 1, 3 or 4.  Soph Brock Bertram returns to anchor the middle.  Shooter Dustin Fronk and 16 a night will be missed but Robert Tobroxen should step right into that role.  The program will be a favorite to win state again and is ridiculously loaded with youngsters for the future too.

Bloomington Jefferson Jaguars (2012-13 season 10-17, 5-13 Conference, Tied 7th)
Coach Jeff Evens is more exciting to watch with his 8th grade team.  That said he has forward Tommy Gathje returning.  Gathje is a highly underrated passer at 6'6-6'7 and can step outside and play.  Matt Rosen also returns to the starting lineup at 8+ per game.  Reserves Kyle Lynch and Brian Mariska also return to the rotation.

Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2012-13 season 9-18, 6-12 Conference, 6th)
First task for Kennedy is finding a new coach.  Reggie Perkins stayed 1 year and just left to return to Washburn as the AD.  Leading scorer Jumah'ri Turner is gone but 3 good pieces are back.  DJ Davis averaged 14 a night and is a lockdown caliber defender on the wing.  Connell Lewis Jr is a guard who saw time.  Travon Hearns will manage the interior.   Robert Parker provides more guard depth.

Burnsville Blaze (2012-13 season 3-23, 2-16 Conference, 10th)
After a very rough couple of season, the Blaze have their top 5 scorers back.  That includes 15+ a night from Zach Smith.  Juniors Jake Ruffing, Joe Morris and Brett Shepley all return to the lineup.

Eagan Wildcats (2012-13 season 16-9, 12-6 Conference, 4th)
Eagan featured a big lineup last year and will have to replace double digit scoring from Ryan Johnson and the strength of forward Mark Woodcock.  Forward Michael Gorder comes back after averaging 21+ per night last year.  He's unorthodox but very effective.  Forward GT Johnson plays multiple roles handling the ball or scoring.  Guard Jack Kelm returns to the rotation.  Guards Bryndan Matthews and Chase Sieberlich both had nice summers and should move up and contribute.

Eastview Lightning (2012-13 season 15-12, 10-8 Conference, 5th)
Former girls coach Paul Goetz takes over the Lightning program.  He took the girls to 4 state tournaments and won 5 league titles in 14 years.  Like predecessor Mark Gerber, expect him to run some of the best sets around.  His son Garrett plays at Rosemount.  Post Ben Oberfeld is off to Bucknell.  There are a pair of shooters to work with in Mark Dwyer and Drew Guebert.  Obi Ibeneme is an athletic wing.  Jordan Machacek is a long lean 6'11 body who could minutes in the middle.

Lakeville North Panthers (2012-13 season 23-7, 14-4 Conference, 2nd)
A great year for the Panthers last year after losing most of the roster.  Now they're poised for another state run behind Xavier signee JP Macura.  Macura is one of the elite shooters and scorers in the state.  His play this summer vaulted him into the top 100 in many national rankings.  After his 25 a night, a pair of guards who averaged double figures depart.  But junior Connor Flack and center Bronson Bruneau are 2 more options returning to the lineup.

Lakeville South Cougars (2012-13 season 10-18, 5-13 Conference, Tied 7th)
The Cougars lose leading scorer Corey Larson who was an athletic front court piece.  They lose 2 more top scorers with size as well.  But there is still very good talent left over.  Frosh Jack Sorenson will run the point once he returns from a shoulder injury.  Junior forward Brenon Larson-Gulsvig made a big jump onto the scene last year and can give them plenty of scoring punch.  Luke Iverson and Cody Kairis provide more guard depth.

Prior Lake Lakers (2012-13 season 19-8, 13-5 Conference, 3rd)
Former St. Thomas Academy head man Dan Rubischko takes over as Alex Focke has moved on to Hamline.  Their 2 huge centers Carson Shanks and Jeff Probert are off to Utah State and Northern State.  Point guard Jon Sobaski returns for a 4th year running the point and is their engine.   Junior Connor Bair will step in on the front line.  Kevin McKiernan will fill a guard spot.

Rosemount Irish (2012-12 season 9-20, 5-13 Conference, Tied 7th)
Rosemount returns a solid guard duo of Garrett Goetz at the point and shooter Cole Northwick.  They combined for 28 points a night last year.  Juniors Logan Halvorsen, Jack Kessler and Kyle Kaupa all saw major rotation minutes last year.  They aren't the most physical team but they can put a hurting on your from the 3 point line.
Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Apple Valley
  2. Lakeville North   
  3. Eagan
  4. Rosemount   
  5. Prior Lake   
  6. Lakeville South
  7. Eastview
  8. Bloomington Kennedy  
  9. Bloomington Jefferson 
  10. Burnsville
Conference Overview:
The top 3 are pretty straight forward here I think.  The top 2 should be heavy favorites to return to state.  Eagan has talent left over and a very talented crop to add to it.  Rosemount has their rotation coming back.  There's not a clear bottom feeder here but Kennedy's coaching situation, Jefferson's scoring struggles and recent Burnsville history compel me to put them at the end of the list.

Conference MVP: Tyus Jones - Apple Valley

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Brock Bertram, Gary Trent Jr, Cameron Kirksey, Jordan Bolton,  Tre Jones - Apple Valley
  • Jack Sorenson - Lakeville South
  • Drew Stewart - Lakeville North
Conference Games to Watch
  • Lakeville North at Eagan - Jan 3rd
  • Apple Valley at Eagan- Jan 7th
  • Lakeville North at Apple Valley - Jan 14th
  • Eagan at Apple Valley - Feb 3rd
  • Eagan at Lakeville North - Feb 7th
  • Apple Valley at Lakeville North - Feb 18th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Minnetonka at Apple Valley - Nov 30th
  • Lakeville North at Eden Prairie - Dec 5th
  • Apple Valley vs De La Salle - Dec 7th (Girls Tipoff Classic at Hopkins)
  • Apple Valley at Hopkins - Dec 10th 
  • Lakeville North at Farmington - Dec 10th
  • Chicago Whitney Young at Apple Valley - Dec 12th (ESPN)
  • Lakeville North vs Hopkins - Dec 14th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Apple Valley vs Roseville - Dec 27th (Granite City Classic at St. Cloud Apollo)
  • Eagan at Bethel Tournament - Dec 27th and 28th
  • Lakeville North at Lakeville Rotary Tournament - Dec 27th and 28th
  • Lakeville North vs Stevens Point (WI) - Jan 25th (Border Battle at Kaukauna, WI)

2013-14 North Suburban Preview

The 2013-2014 season preview series continues with the 7th preview in the series.  In this preview, a look at the North Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they're created, click here.

Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights (2012-13 season 7-20, 5-11 Conference, 8th)
The Red Knights fell hard last season losing 11 of their last 12 and winning only 7 games after many years of 20+ wins (but note 2 years of top ranking without making state before last year).   5 of the top 6 scorers return.  That includes quick Jayson Edwards at the point and leading scorer Nick Birney.  They'll have to find offense as no player averaged double figures.

Columbia Heights Hylanders (2012-13 season 18-8, 12-4 Conference, 3rd)
Coach Willie Braziel will have to replace the high scoring guard duo of Deon Sanstad and Dominique Galloway who combined for almost 30 a night.  Colton Williams averaged 11+ a night and returns.  Soph forward Jarret Baptiste returns after averaging over 8 points per game last season.

Fridley Tigers (2012-13 season 11-15, 4-12 Conference, 9th)
The Tigers get an important pick up in guard Stevie Hjelmberg from White Bear Lake.  Add that to guard Michael Murray and forward Chaney Pal.  That gives the Tigers 3 scorers.  They also have a minimum of 3 other players returning to the rotation.  Size is going to be a problem for this crew.  Hjelmberg will have to be a major rebounder for them as a big athletic wing.

Irondale Knights (2012-13 season 14-13, 9-7 Conference, 4th)
The Knights lose 39 points a night from their top 2 scorers including 25 per game from Jack Martinek.  Forward Ben Ojika formed the other half of the duo.  Junior forward Devin Malik looks to take over the scoring role.  Junior guard Nick Nelson should be another rotation contributor.

Robbinsdale Cooper Hawks (2012-13 season 22-6, 16-0 Conference, 1st)
Cooper ran through the league last season but now its time to rebuild.  Rashad Vaughn leaves for Findlay Prep as the all-time scoring leader in school history.  He averaged over 28 a night.  Lavar McCollough and Billy Kellogg combined for over 20 a night and also need to be replaced.  Brandon Robinson gives them production on the wing.  Darrious Denson returns to man the post.  Top frosh Isaac Johnson left for North after playing JV last year for the Hawks.

St. Louis Park Orioles (2012-13 season 20-6, 14-2 Conference, 2nd)
The Orioles built to last year and had a 20 win season.  But they'll pay the price this season.  Much of their JV was seniors along with everyone on the varsity.  That means there's almost no scoring or experience returning.  Nicholas Kjos will man the middle as the junior class restarts the program.

Spring Lake Park Panthers (2012-13 season 15-14, 8-8 Conference, Tied 5th)
The Panthers lose forward Robert Ben and guard Gary Cook who combined for 30 points a night.  They also lose Justin Axelson in the middle and Trevor Hall from the starting lineup.  But they return scoring guard TC Robinson.  While they'll plug in guards, they will need to find some size.

Totino-Grace Eagles (2012-13 season 9-18, 7-9 Conference, 7th)
Totino-Grace returns 5 significant pieces from last season.  Forward Reggie Meyer gives them a versatile wing player.  Guard Colin Fleming can shoot it from anywhere.  Seth Sullwold also averaged double figures.  Maxwell Walker saw time last year as well.  Max Meyer and space eating sophomore James Streeter should come up from JV and be valuable pieces.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Totino-Grace
  2. Columbia Heights  
  3. Spring Lake Park 
  4. Fridley
  5. Benilde-St. Margaret's 
  6. Robbinsdale Cooper  
  7. Irondale 
  8. St. Louis Park 
Conference Overview: 
The northern tier of the league (North Branch, Chisago Lakes and St. Francis) all move to the Mississippi 8.  The rest of the league stays together for 1 final year before the North Surburban folds.  St. Louis Park, Cooper and Benilde-St. Margaret's (for now) are off to the new Metro West.  Columbia Heights and Fridley move to the Tri-Metro.  The remaining 3 schools move to a larger Northwest Suburban.

As to making the picks, ooof.  I saw all of these teams except BSM last season which usually makes things much easier but this is the toughest set of picks so far.  The bottom 4 teams in the league I can't see being very good.  Columbia Heights and Spring Lake Park have major pieces to replace but do have some talent coming back.  So Totino-Grace gets the nod over those 2 for what they do have coming back.  St. Louis Park I think will really struggle after throwing everything into last year.  Fridley will be better with Hjelmberg as will Benilde-St. Margaret's.  With Rashad Vaughn leaving and new coaches trying to keep talent on the northside along with the resurgence of Park Center, is this the start of a big downhill slide for Cooper?

Conference MVP: Reggie Meyer - Totino-Grace

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Matt Lilenthal - Benilde-St. Margaret's
  • Jarret Baptiste - Columbia Heights
  • Erik LaVahn - Spring Lake Park
  • James Streeter - Totino-Grace
Conference Games to Watch
  • Totino-Grace at Spring Lake Park - Dec 20th
  • Spring Lake Park at Columbia Heights - Jan 7th
  • Totino-Grace at Columbia Heights - Jan 23rd
  • Spring Lake Park at Totino-Grace - Jan 31st
  • Columbia Heights at Spring Lake Park - Feb 6th
  • Columbia Heights at Totino-Grace - Feb 21st
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Totino-Grace at St. Paul Central - Dec 10th
  • Mahtomedi at Totino-Grace - Jan 3rd
  • Spring Lake Park at Champlin Park - Jan 15th
  • Spring Lake Park at Farmington - Jan 21st
  • Spring Lake Park at St. Francis - Feb 8th

2013-14 Northwest Suburban Preview

This is the 6th preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this a preview, a look at the Northwest Suburban Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are generated, click here.

Andover Huskies (2012-13 season 10-20, 6-14 Conference, 8th)
Assistant Matt Aune takes over the Huskies after head coach Nick Tibesar took the Wayzata job.  Kyle Kettler and Jake McNallen give Andover an experienced backcourt.  Leading scoring Connor Wilkie put up 19 a night and is a major football recruit.  Junior Zach Swanson also returns to the rotation.

Anoka Tornadoes (2012-13 season 3-23, 2-18 Conference, 10th)
The Tornadoes will have their 3rd head coach in 3 years as Ryan Thom takes over.  Their only double figure scorer Malcolm Seals graduates from the point guard spot.  Travis Bengston and Stephen Barthold return to the rotation.  Barthold is the leading returning scorer.  JP Grow returns to provide size.  They also lose soph foward Austin Slater who transferred to Wayzata.  He would have been a major contributor this season.

Blaine Bengals (2012-13 season 7-20, 5-15 Conference, 9th)
Leading scorer Matt Barthels returns along with inside presence Jason Travis.  Soph guard Kyle Cappard and junior forward Andy Leo figure to move up and contribute.  They've lost 17 of 19 and 8 in a row coming into the season.

Centennial Cougars (2012-13 season 13-15, 8-12 Conference, 7th)
All 3 double figure scorers are gone and from 3 important positions, center, guard and wing.  7 members of the rotation are gone.  This is for a group that had higher expectations than their results last season.  Soph Tyler Peterson returns at a guard spot.  Forward Kevin Grow is a lanky and versatile forward that's a great fit for their Read and React offense.   Clayton Byrd will also return.

Champlin Park Rebels (2012-13 season 19-8, 13-7 Conference, Tied 3rd)
The Rebels should be one of the top teams in the league once again.  The backcourt is loaded with Northern State commit Ian Smith at the point and JT Gibson as a scorer.  Forward Brennan Witt provides the inside punch.  Those are the top 3 scorers from last year.  Trevor Garrison's defense will be missed on the wing.   Matt Juneau, Marty Hill and Josh Jensen all provide depth.  The incoming freshman class is stacked.

Coon Rapids Cardinals (2012-13 season 0-27, 0-20 Conference, 11th)
Mike Ogorek comes over from Blaine to take over the program.  His intensity will be much needed to resurrect the program.  They've lost 28 straight and 43 of their last 46.  The top 5 scorers return from last year but none averaged double figures.

Elk River Elks (2012-13 season 20-9, 13-7 Conference, Tied 3rd)
Leading scorer Porter Morrell and 18 a night at the guard spot will need to be replaced.  But the Elks return 4 year veteran Clay Elrod at a forward spot with almost 17 points a night.  His high arcing jumpshot inspires memories of former TWolves player Tom Gugliotta.  The next 3 scorers are gone.  But coach Randy Klasen figures to plug in juniors Zach Ernst and Mitchell Weege to man the guard spots and provide some scoring punch.

Maple Grove Crimson (2012-13 season 16-10, 13-7 Conference, Tied 3rd)
The Crimson have to replace all 5 starters  Like Centennial, they lose a scoring wing, point guard and center.  Matt Lindgren and Jake Sterling saw rotation time last year and return.  Reed Nikko is one of the top sophomores in the state and should help fill in the inside gap.  This is another program in the league with a loaded incoming freshman class. Shooting guard Elliot Kane was likely to see time this year but he's now at Osseo.

Osseo Orioles (2012-13 season 25-4, 18-2 Conference, 2nd)
The Orioles return the top big man in the league in South Dakota State commit Ian Theisen who averaged 17+ and almost 10 boards a night.  Scorer deluxe Wheeler Baker returns on the wing.  The toughness and leadership of Bridge Tusler (along with 15 a night) will be sorely missed.  But as is the case at Osseo they figure out a way and this year its Holy Angels transfer Jordan Dembley comes over to run the point.   Role player Matt Miedtke returns to the starting lineup.  They have a brutal 3 day stretch in December where they host Buffalo, go to Champlin Park and then play DeLaSalle.

Park Center Pirates (2012-13 season 28-4, 19-1 Conference, 1st)
The Pirates built for last year and made a run to the state championship game and took the conference title from rival Osseo.  4 starters are gone along with 2 bench players.  That includes North Dakota signee Quinton Hooker.  His leadership will be greatly missed.  5 of the top scorers leaving amounts to 66 points a night that needs to be replaced.  Isaiah McKay is back on the wing after almost averaging double digits.  Issac Matthews returns to provide size.  There are talented guards available to step up including Amani Hooker, Arione Farrar, Xavier Pollard and Adam Buirge

Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons (2012-13 season 19-9, 13-7 Conference, Tied 3rd)
The Falcons got an earlier start on this season when leading scorer Konner Goettsche blew out his knee midway through the year.  5 of the top 6 scorers have graduated but plenty of talent remains.  Shooter Evan Nolan returns on the wing.  Jerome Dixon provides athleticism and Ryan Casperson is a big body who can step out and shoot it.  Sean Burns is a long inside presence who can alter shots. 

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Osseo
  2. Champlin Park 
  3. Elk River   
  4. Robbinsdale Armstrong
  5. Park Center  
  6. Maple Grove 
  7. Centennial  
  8. Andover 
  9. Blaine   
  10. Coon Rapids  
  11. Anoka 
Conference Overview:
Bringing in Jordan Dembley was just the piece that Osseo needed.  That puts them in a class with Apple Valley and Hopkins as the top teams in class AAAA.  They're the clear favorite with Champlin Park clearly second.  The next 3 all had heavy losses but still have nice pieces to work with, throw them in a hat and shake.  Elk River gets the nod thanks to having the top player in the group, Clay Elrod.  Park Center's young guards are a handful and should step in and be productive.  Maple Grove and Centennial also have big losses but not as many returning pieces.  Andover will improve after their state tourney season.  They could jump into that group.  Blaine has an outside shot as that as well.  Anoka and Coon Rapids finish out the list and will struggle to find wins.  With Coon Rapids having pieces back and Anoka losing pieces, I'll give Coon Rapids the edge and pick them to break last year's winless season and jump out of the cellar.  With 3 new additions assigned for next year, that will bring the league to 14 teams.  Don't be shocked if there's some action during the year with teams looking around for alternatives.  Remember what happened to the Lake Conference when it was expanded to 14 teams, we ended up with the new South Suburban Conference.

Conference MVP: Ian Theisen - Osseo

Underclassmen to watch: 
  • Theo John, McKinley Wright - Champlin Park
  • Brad Davison, Jack Hutchinson, Tywhon Pickford- Maple Grove
  • Kyle Cappard - Blaine
  • Tyler Peterson - Centennial
  • Reed Nikko - Maple Grove
  • Allen Anderson - Osseo
  • Amani Hooker, Xavier Pollard - Park Center
Conference Games to Watch
  • Osseo at Champlin Park - Dec 13th
  • Champlin Park at Osseo - Jan 30th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Champlin Park vs Hopkins - Nov 30th (projected Hopkins tournament final)
  • Osseo vs DeLaSalle - Dec 14th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Champlin Park vs Eden Prairie - Dec 14th (Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka) 
  • Osseo at Rochester Rotary Tourney (Dec 26-28th)
  • Hopkins at Osseo - Feb 11th

2013-14 MCAA Preview

This is the 5th preview in my 2013-14 season preview series.  Week 1 of the previews concludes with a look at the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association (MCAA).  For a list of all the season previews and how they are created, click here.

Bethany Academy Eagles (2012-13 season 7-19, 1-12 Conference, 5th South)
The Eagles lose double figure scorer Luke Mikhail and forward RT Mould.  Sharpshooting guard Sam Hagen leads the offense at 19 a night.  They have very little size in the program.

Heritage Christian Academy Eagles (2012-13 season 22-7, 10-3 Conference, Tied 2nd North)
Heritage coming off another 20 win season and they'll have to replace 5 of their top 7 scorers.  Drew Kleinschmidt is the 1 double figure returning scorer.  Spencer Bland returns as another effective scorer.  Andy Hamilton also returns to the rotation.

Legacy Christian Academy (2012-13 season 11-17, 4-9 Conference, Tied 4th North)
Senior big Colton Richards needs to be replaced.  Junior Nate Bertsch leads the offense and just cleared double figures last season.  Luke Anderson almost reached double figures and provides size up front.  Caleb Johnson and Luke Johnson also provide experience.

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity Bulldogs (2012-13 season 17-12, 8-5 Conference, 1st South)
The Bulldogs return their dynamic duo of Nick Machemehl and Spencer Radtke.  Machemehl is a do everything guard who averaged 22 a night.  Radtke was a 15 and 9 guy.  Expect them to up their 17 win total of the last 2 years.

Maranatha Christian Academy Mustangs (2012-13 season 31-2, 13-0 Conference, 1st North)
Heavy losses for the powerhouse Mustangs.  Isaiah Hanson is off to Colorado Christian, Garrison Gillard is off to UMD and Grantham Gillard is now at Eden Prairie.  That's about 45 a night from 3 of the top 4 scorers.  But as usual MCA reloads and its with a member of the Hanson clan.  Junior Jeremiah Hanson averaged 13+ a night from the wing.  Josh Goldschmidt returns to run the show and provide leadership along with his 9 points a night.

New Life Academy Eagles (2012-13 season 12-15, 6-7 Conference, 3rd South)
Top scorer Cameron Duffy departs but the next 3 scorers return.  That includes forward Conrad Engstrom.  Jake Wynia returns inside.

PACT Charter Panthers (2012-13 season 12-15, 3-10 Conference, 5th North)
The Panthers lose their top scorer Drew Zieroth and 19 a night from the scoring lefty.  Danny Mooers almost averaged double figures and should lead the way this season.

Southwest Christian Stars (2012-13 season 13-12, 7-6 Conference, 2nd South)
Soph guard Jack Jenson returns after leading the team in scoring last season.  He finished strong with 18 points or more in 5 of the last 7 games.  Luke Johanson also a solid returnee for the Stars at 12 per night.  Brett Reinhart also returns to the rotation.  The team won 7 of 8 going into the playoffs with the only loss in that stretch to Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity in overtime.   Expect Kit Avery's Stars to take another step forward this season.

Trinity Tri-Hawks (2012-13 season 8-19, 3-10 Conference, 4th South)
Leading scorer Caleb Dahl departs.  But there are returning pieces.  Soph Eddie Maruggi returns in the backcourt.  Junior Jon Lotti returns up front.  Seth Brummer also returns to the lineup.

West Lutheran Warriors (2012-13 season 25-5, 10-3 Conference, Tied 2nd North)
3 of the top 4 scorers have departed after a great 25 win season.  That includes the guard combo of Morgan and Dustin Barth.  Paul Draeger leads the returning scorers at 12 per night.  Will Steffel and Andrew Stavig return inside.  Nate Kieffer will see guard minutes along with junior Jonah Kuske.

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division
  1. Maranatha
  2. Heritage
  3. Legacy
  4. West Lutheran  
  5. PACT 
South Division
  1. Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity 
  2. SW Christian
  3. New Life 
  4. Trinity 
  5. Bethany
Conference Overview
The balance of power shifts to the south division this season.  All 5 teams in the south have top players returning.  The teams in the north took heavy losses.  Maranatha and LP/HT are expected to be ranked teams this season.  SW Christian gave LP/HT all they wanted last year in the 2 games losing by 2 and then by 6 in overtime.   Those are the clear top 2 in the south.  Trinity and New Life coin flip for the next 2 spots but New Life got Trinity twice last year so they get the nod.  In the north, MCA remains the favorite.  The next 3 spots are a toss up.  Legacy has the most returning but there are remaining pieces at Heritage and West Lutheran.

Conference MVP: Nick Machemehl - Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Sam LeVoir - Bethany
  • Damario Armstrong - Maranatha
  • Jack Jenson - SW Christian
  • Eddie Maruggi - Trinity
Conference Games to Watch
  • Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at Southwest Christian - Jan 3rd
  • Maranatha at Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity - Jan 23rd
  • Southwest Christian at Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity - Feb 3rd
  • Conference Tournament at Southwest Christian - Feb 15th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Blake at Southwest Christian - Dec 10th
  • Washburn at Maranatha - Jan 11th

2013-14 Minneapolis City Preview

This is the fourth preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Minneapolis City Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Edison Tommies (2012-13 season 9-18, 3-9 Conference, 6th)
Four of 5 starters return for Edison.  Leading scorer Brian Givens and his double figure average (12+) departed.  Forward Joe Anderson and center Jonah Togbah return.  Anderson gives them a wing scoring option.  This roster isn't big and they won't have the athletes like top teams in the league.

North Polars (2012-13 season 6-15, 0-11 Conference, 7th)
Larry McKenzie returns to north Minneapolis after his epic run of titles at archrival Henry and a stop at Holy Angels.  The rebuilding program begins with youth as the incoming freshman class is highly touted.  Add in returning sophomore Tyler Johnson at a guard spot plus junior center Randy Mathews.  Mathews is a unknown mystery man who picked up an offer from Hampton over the summer.   Lefty wing Jamil Jackson comes over from Metro Tech.  Athletic forward Lee Gaines led the team in scoring last season and will need to be replaced.

Patrick Henry Patriots (2012-13 season 9-14, 6-5 Conference, 4th)
Jeremy Miller takes over the Patriots after they made a complete mess of hiring him the 1st time.  This too is a rebuilding project.  The contrast of seeing how an AAU guy (Miller) builds the program vs a high school guy (McKenzie) is going to very interesting to watch in North Minneapolis.  Star wing Darius Hill and his 19+ a night will be greatly missed along with Jamar Boone.  There are pieces to work with.  Junior Jacarius Ford can run the point, soph Max Hals gives a body inside.  There's Jovahn Jefferson on the wing to provide scoring punch. 

Roosevelt Teddies (2012-13 season 12-15, 5-7 Conference, 5th)
The Teddies return 2 significant pieces from last season.  Demetrius Durant runs the show and is the leading scorer at 18+ per night.  Junior Terry Thomas returns as a scoring  threat on the wing.   This is another city team without much size.

South Tigers (2012-13 season 15-12, 9-3 Conference, Tied 1st)
South returns their top 2 scorers in versatile sophomore Payton Bowdry and guard Kenley Farrow.   Taron Myers and Oscar Campbell should also see rotation time.  The Tigers will need to find size.

Southwest Lakers (2012-13 season 15-13, 9-3 Conference, Tied 1st)
A landmark year for the Lakers program Tom Weko has seen the team go from 6 league wins 2 years ago (that matched their previous 3 years combined) to a 9 win title season last year.  Their freshmen also won the city title last season so the future isn't bleak.  They return 2 double figure scorers in Cam Ross and Akeem Smith.  AJ Ray was very productive off the bench and returns.  The sparkplug energy that 5'6" Cam Knuckles brought will be missed.

Washburn Millers (2012-13 season 14-11, 9-3 Conference, Tied 1st)
The Millers had plenty of talent returning but arguably had a disappointing season for new coach Jamin Cook.  Point guard Nick Anderson and post Noah Scarver are 2 big losses.  But the rest of the roster is as talented as any in the league.  Leading scorer Evan Shepherd and football star Jeff Jones man the wings.  Kevin Gleason will take over the point.  Quinton Garvis and JoBreil Powell provide offensive punch.   George Clark will claim duties in the middle.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Washburn
  2. Southwest
  3. North 
  4. Henry 
  5. South
  6. Roosevelt
  7. Edison
Conference Overview
Last year the league was turned on its head with traditional power North going winless in the the league and Southwest turning it around to win their 1st city title in 30 years.  Their buzzer beater against South to put them in the Twin Cities games was one of the top highlights of last season (read about it here).  This season is a year of transition with 2nd year guys at Roosevelt and Washburn and the new guys on the north side.  Washburn has the talent to be the favorite.   Roosevelt behind the others but ahead of Edison.  North and Henry with Southwest will battle for the 2nd spot.  I'll take Southwest with the north side teams being young and fairly inexperienced.

Conference MVP: Payton Bowdry - South

Underclassmen to watch:  
Payton Bowdry - Minneapolis South
Max Hals, Julian Jackson, Cory Dixon - Minneapolis Henry
Jamil Jackson and freshman class - Minneapolis North
Brennan Hawkins, Osiris Washington - Southwest
Charlie Irmiger - Washburn

Conference Games to Watch
  • Southwest at Washburn - Jan 10th
  • Washburn at North - Jan 16th
  • Washburn at Southwest- Feb 13th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Southwest at Mounds View - Dec 3rd
  • Southwest at East Ridge - Dec 6th
  • Washburn vs Minnetonka - Jan 20th (MLK Classic at Henry)

2013-14 Missota Conference Preview

This is the third preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Missota Conference.  For a list of all the season previews, click here.

Academy of Holy Angels Stars (2012-13 season 20-8, 11-3 Conference, Tied 1st)
Head coach Larry McKenzie was run off and is now at Minneapolis North.  Former head coach Jesse Foley takes over the program.  The dynamic guard duo of Delshon Strickland and Jordan Dembley have transferred out (Minnetonka and Osseo respectively).   Wing Danny Sullivan and guard Sam Keis graduated costing the Stars 4 of their top 5 scorers.   Charlie Koontz is the lone double figure scorer returning.   He'll anchor the front line with Joey Poehling and Connor Failor.  Adam Hoffman is the top returning guard.  Taylor BonGiovanni provides outside shooting.

Chaska Hawks (2012-13 season 13-14, 7-7 Conference, 4th)
Chaska returns junior guard Jacob Hansen as their leading scorer (14+ PPG).  Forward Eric West returns inside as a scoring threat who can also step out and knock down a jumper.  Juniors Justin Arnold and Peyton Sanders are also quality guards.  Chris Auer's perimeter defense will be missed.  They'll look to Jake Young and Jacob Weber for more interior size.

Chanhassen Storm (2012-13 season 13-14, 6-8 Conference, Tied 5th)
The Storm and their junior class are a year away but will still be dangerous this season.  Junior forward Joey Witthus averaged 16+ a night last season as the only double figure scorer.  Ben Khwice moved up late last season to take over the point guard spot for the next 2 seasons.  Football star Frank Ragnow gives an interior presence.

Farmington Tigers (2012-13 season 14-14, 6-8 Conference, Tied 5th)
Farmington will have to replace top scorer Darren Beenken but they return plenty of talent from a balanced lineup.  Junior guard Zach Spiekers was one of 4 players in double figures last season and had a very good summer playing up with the WOTN 17s.  Eli Rockett and Mackinley Bassett also averaged double figures.  Nick Varner returns on the front line. 

New Prague Trojans (2012-13 season 18-9, 9-5 Conference, 3rd)
The Trojans feature a pair of quality returnees.  Richmond commit Paul Friendshuh leads the way at 15 a night.  Mike Soderlund also averaged double figures.  With quality guard play, New Prague can be a very tough out in section 1AAA.

Northfield Raiders (2012-13 season 7-19, 2-12 Conference, 8th)
Most of the rotation is gone for the last place Raiders.  Sophomore forward Luke Harris is a bright spot coming back.  The leadership of guard Eric Shepley will be missed.  Hard to see them avoiding a 3 year streak at the bottom of the league.

Red Wing Wingers (2012-13 season 15-14, 4-10 Conference, 7th)
Red Wing returns 3 of their top 4 scorers.  That includes 15 a night from wing junior wing Ty Buck and 10.5 PPG from Isaac Toivonen in the middle.  The Wingers beat up a weak non-conference schedule but did give many of their league foes very tough games.

Shakopee Sabers (2012-13 season 16-11, 11-3 Conference, Tied 1st)
The Sabers lose 2 of their top 3 scorers but are still stacked.  St. John's (MN) got a steal in forward Tyler Weiss.  Fellow forward Jake Maiers is the banger of the front line duo.  Junior Evan Hagen returns for a 3rd straight year running the point.  Soph Steffon Mitchell was a productive freshman and had a great summer.  If they find consistent outside shooting, they're very scary.  They're big and physical and as well coached as anyone.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Shakopee 
  2. Farmington 
  3. Chaska 
  4. New Prague 
  5. Chanhassen  
  6. Red Wing 
  7. Holy Angels
  8. Northfield
Conference Overview:
Its the final season before the Missota Conference shuts down forever.  Red Wing and Northfield move to the Big 9.  Holy Angels is off to the Tri-Metro. Chanhassen and Chaska are charter members of the new Metro West Conference.  Farmington and Shakopee will move to the South Suburban.  New Prague completes the shift by moving to the Wright County.

Shakopee is too big, too experienced, and too well coached to not be the favorite.  Northfield has to be the final pick based on their losses and last year's record.  Farmington has a lot back and I think they'll fight with Chaska for the 2 slot.  The next 4 teams could finish in any order as I see them all very even.  Holy Angels falls way off with the loss of their guard duo and adjusting to a new system.  New Prague gets the nod with the highest profile player in the group followed by Chanhassen.

Conference MVP: Tyler Weiss - Shakopee

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Steffon Mitchell - Shakopee
  • Luke Harris - Northfield
Conference Games to Watch
  • Farmington at Chaska- Jan 7th 
  • Shakopee at Chaska - Jan 21st
  • Shakopee at Farmington - Jan 28th
  • Farmington at Shakopee - Jan 31st
  • Chaska at Shakopee - Feb 18th
Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Austin at New Prague - Nov 26th
  • Shakopee vs East Ridge - Nov 30th (Anoka-Ramsey Classic)
  • New Prague at Holy Family - Dec 7th
  • Waconia at Shakopee - Dec 10th
  • Eden Prairie at Shakopee - Dec 12th
  • Shakopee vs St. Francis - Dec 14th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • New Prague vs Rochester Lourdes - Dec 14th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Shakopee at Lakeville Rotary Tournament -Dec 27/28th

2013-14 Lake Conference Preview

This is the second preview in my 2013-2014 season preview series.  In this preview, a look at the Lake Conference.  For a list of all the season previews and how they are done, click here.

Eden Prairie Eagles (2012-13 season 22-10, 3-5 Lake Conference, 4th)
The Eagles were banged up all season and still made the state semis last year before losing to state champion Apple Valley.  The leadership of Jack Cottrell (Boston College FB) and Grant Shaeffer will be sorely missed.  Star guard Andre Wallace was the top scorer and returns.  Inside outside player Anthony Anderson returns.  Alex Ihrke was a solid shooter for the Eagles last season.  Aaron Workin is the next in line of come up through the program solid bigs.

Edina Hornets (2012-13 season 24-8, 7-1 Lake Conference, 1st)
Last year was a fairy tale season for the Edina program.  But they lose the major pieces from that roster.  All everything point guard Graham Woodward is off to Penn State and shot blocker deluxe Reggie Lynch is off to Illinois State.  They accounted for 40 points a night.  5 of the 7 members of the short rotation are gone.  Junior Ben Boone leads the returners along with freshman reserve Walt McGrory who play a primary role this season.  John Swanke and Max Lynch are 2 players the Hornets will look to for inside depth.

Hopkins Royals (2012-13 season 22-7, 4-4 Lake Conference, 3rd)
22-7 would be a very good season for most teams, but this is powerhouse Hopkins where they had won not just 20 but 30 or more games for 4 straight years and were 149-7 in the previous 5 years.  It was a young roster last season and that youth will make the Royals one of the state's top teams this season.  4 of the top 5 scorers return.  That includes defensive pest Kamali Chambers at the point, one of the state's best shooters in Jake Wright and his 16+ points a night returns on the wing.  Then you have stud sophomore Amir Coffey on the other wing (ranked #5 in the nation by Scout.com) and Stephon Sharp as an athletic front court player.  Guys like Treyvon Edwards, John Warren and former Robbinsdale Armstrong transfer Noble Fahnbulleh will provide plenty of depth. 

Minnetonka Skippers (2011-13 season 21-7, 5-3 Lake Conference, 2nd)
Minnetonka loses all 5 starters from a group that had a tough double OT loss in the section semis to archrival Hopkins.  That includes 19 points a night from Wisconsin recruit Riley Dearring.  But don't feel too sorry for coach Tom Dasovich's Skippers.  There is plenty of firepower at the guard spots with Justin Moes and Luke Petterson and possibly Andrew Grosz.  Soph PG Amar Miller comes over from Metro Tech and may earn time.  They also add Holy Angels star wing Delshon Strickland to that group.   His high level athleticism adds another dimension but keep an eye on the chemistry as you would with any other high profile transfer.  A few guard spots to fill and one 1 ball for a bunch of guys.  Grant Steele and Evan Altenburg are the post bangers.  Careino Gurley is a physical defensive wing that fits perfectly in their style of play.

Wayzata Trojans (2012-13 season 12-14, 1-7 Lake Conference, 5th)
Wayzata is coming off a disappointing season under 500 where they had lots of talent coming back.  Phil Ward retired and top assistant Mike Anderson took the Breck job.  Former Wayzata assistant Nick Tibesar takes over the job after spending a couple of rough years as the head coach at Andover.  A shame that coach Ward goes out the way he did on an awful late game call (read about it here).

The top 4 of the top 5 scorers have graduated including 39 a night from Zach Robertson and Brad Carlson.  I believe Robertson graduated as the school's all time scoring leader.  Kyle Kalivoda returns at a guard spot.  Soph Johnny Beeninga will also see lots of time handling the ball.  Grant Long is another solid guard.  They'll have to find some size.  That may begin with sophomore transfer Austin Slater who saw varsity time last season for Anoka.

Predicted Order of Finish
  1. Hopkins
  2. Minnetonka
  3. Eden Prairie
  4. Edina
  5. Wayzata
Conference Overview
The league will be tough as always but it won't be like last year.  Wayzata and Edina are down significantly.  Hopkins is my favorite but Minnetonka did win both regular season meetings and had every chance in the section semis.  They'll battle for the top spot with Eden Prairie in the middle.

Conference MVP: Andre Wallace - Eden Prairie

Underclassmen to watch:  
  • Carter Coughlin, Brady Rudrud - Eden Prairie
  • Walt McGrory, Nolan LeVoir - Edina
  • Amir Coffey - Hopkins
  • Seth Coatta, Amar Miller- Minnetonka
  • Austin Slater, Johnny Beeninga, Ty Gelinske - Wayzata
Conference Games to Watch
  • Hopkins at Eden Prairie- Jan 21st
  • Hopkins at Minnetonka - Jan 28th
  • Minnetonka at Eden Prairie - Feb 3rd
  • Minnetonka at Hopkins  - Feb 14th
 Non-Conference Games to Watch
  • Champlin Park at Hopkins - Nov 30th (projected Hopkins Tourney Final)
  • Minnetonka at Apple Valley - Nov 30th
  • Lakeville North at Eden Prairie - Dec 5th
  • Apple Valley at Hopkins - Dec 10th
  • Cretin-Derham Hall at Minnetonka - Dec 14th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic)
  • Hopkins vs Lakeville North- Dec 14th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Eden Prairie vs Champlin Park - Dec 14th (Breakdown Tipoff Classic at Minnetonka)
  • Minnetonka at Holy Family - Jan 4th
  • Hopkins at Osseo - Feb 11th